Romance of Bible Chronology Vol 1: M Anstey Part 3
PERIOD I. THE PATRIARCHS -
CHAPTER IV. THE ANTE-DILUVIAN PATRIARCHS - FROM ADAM TO NOAH.
(AN. HOM. 1-1056.)
THE opening verse of Genesis speaks of the Creation of the
heavens, and the earth, in the undefined beginning. From this point
we may date the origin of the world, but not the origin of man. For
the second verse tells of a catastrophe - the earth became a
ruin, and a desolation. The Hebrew verb hayah (hayah = to be)
here translated was, signifies not only "to be" but
also "to become," "to take place," "to come
to pass." When a Hebrew writer makes a simple affirmation, or
merely predicates the existence of anything, the verb hayah is
never expressed. Where it is expressed it must always be
translated by our verb to become, never by the verb to be,
if we desire to convey the exact shade of the meaning of the
Original. The words tohu va-bohu (tohu va- bohu), translated
in the A.V. "without form and void" and in the R.V. "waste
and void" should be rendered tohu, a ruin, and bohu,
a desolation. They do not represent the state of the heavens and the
earth as they were created by God. They represent only the state of
the earth as it afterwards became - "a ruin and a
desolation." This interpretation is confirmed by the words of
Isaiah 45:18, "He created it not tohu (a ruin): He formed
it to be inhabited (habitable, not desolate)." This excludes the
rendering of Gen. 1:2 in the A.V. and the R.V. as decisively as the
Hebrew of Gen. 1:2 requires the rendering of hayah by the word
"became " instead of the word "was," or better
still "had become," the separation of the Vav from
the verb being the Hebrew method of indicating the pluperfect tense.
The noble Cathedral, once a perfect work of art, with its crowds
of devout worshippers, becomes, with the lapse of ages, a dilapidated
ruin. Forsaken by those who once frequented its hallowed
courts, it becomes a desolation. Similarly the words of Gen.
1:2, "And the earth became without form and void" are
intended to convey to us the fact that the cosmos, once a beautiful
and perfect whole, became a "ruin" and a
"desolation." What the cause of this catastrophe was, we
are not told, though some speculative interpreters have connected it
with the fall of Satan. We know neither the cause, nor the time, nor
the manner in which the calamitous change took place. There is no
point of contact between the Hebrew tohu "ruin" and
the Greek conception of chaos, the primeval, shapeless, raw
material out of which the world was formed. Genesis 1:2 does not
describe a stage in the process of the creation, but a disaster which
befell the created earth the original creation of the heavens, and
the earth, is chronicled in Gen. 1:1. The next verse, Gen. 1:2, [PAGE
63] is a statement of the disorder, the ruin, and the state of
desolation into which the earth subsequently fell. What follows in
Gen. 1:3- 31 is the story of the restoration of a lost order by the
creative word of God. Between the creation of the heavens and the
earth "in the beginning" (Gen. 1:1) and the catastrophe by
which they became a "ruin" and a "desolation"
(Gen. 1:2) we place those countless ages required by the geologist
for the formation of the various strata of the earth's crust, and the
fossil remains embedded therein.
The length of time described by the Hebrew word Yom = day,
as used in this chapter, cannot be definitely determined. The word
itself is frequently used to express a long period, an entire Era.
The time occupied by the whole process of the six days' work is
referred to in Genesis 2:4 as "the day that the Lord God made
the heavens and the earth." The use of the expression "and
evening came and morning came - day one" (Gen. 1:5; repeated
Gen. 1:8,13,19,23,31) seems to suggest a literal day as measured by
the revolution of the earth on its axis, but it cannot be said to be
proved that the writer is not here using the words "evening and
morning" in a figurative sense, for the commencement and the
completion of whatever period he intended to mark by his use of the
word "day." In the same verse (Gen. 1:5) the word "day"
is used to mark a still briefer period, viz. that portion of
the day when it is light.
The attempt to parcel out the six days' work into the six
geological Eras, to which they somewhat roughly, but by no means
accurately correspond, cannot be regarded as a satisfactory
explanation of the writer's intention and meaning. There may be
certain analogies between the order of Creation as described in the
first chapter of Genesis, and the order of the formation of the
various strata of the crust of the earth as read by the geologist,
and in the order of the occurrence of the fossil remains which are
found embedded in the stratified layers of the earth's crust, for
God's works are all of a piece but there are also great and manifest
divergencies, and these are so great, and so manifest that the two
series cannot be said to run absolutely parallel with each other, or
to perfectly correspond. The natural interpretation of the narrative,
to one who recognizes the greatness of the power of God, is that
which understands the chapter as a record of the creation of the
world in six literal days; but it cannot be denied that the word
"day" may have been used by the writer in a figurative
sense, and intended by him to indicate a more extended period
corresponding to a geological Era of time.
The creation of Adam took place on the sixth day after the
creation of light. Whether this sixth day is to be interpreted as the
sixth literal day, as measured by the space of time required for the
revolution of the earth upon its own axis, or as a sixth geological
Era, must remain uncertain, as there is nothing in the Hebrew Text to
decide between the more precise and the more extended connotation of
Similarly the question discussed by Ussher in his Annals of the
Old and New Testaments, by Kennedy in his New Method of
Scripture Chronology, by R. G. Faussett in his Symmetry of
Time, and many other writers, as to the exact month, day and hour
at which the first year of the life of Adam [PAGE 64] began, whether
at the autumnal or at the vernal Equinox, cannot be decisively
The following considerations make it appear probable that the
original point of departure for the year was the autumnal Equinox,
and that this was changed at the Exodus by Divine command, to the
vernal Equinox, at all events, as far as the Hebrew people were
concerned, whilst other nations may have continued to reckon their
New Year's Day from the autumnal Equinox, or may have invented Eras
of their own. We know that the later Jews Hellenized their calendar,
introducing the principle of intercalation, and using the Greek
Metonic cycle of 19 years for this purpose, instead of adhering to
the Mosaic principle of direct observation, and eschewing
astronomical calculations altogether.
(1) The order of the "evening and the morning" which
formed the first day suggests by analogy the propriety of making the
year also commence in the autumn.
(2) The autumnal season of harvest, when the fruits of the earth
were ripe, seems to be the most appropriate time of the year for the
appearance of man on the earth which had been specially prepared for
(3) The change of "the first month of the year" to Abib
or Nisan occurring at the spring of the year (Exodus 12:2, 13:4,
Deut. 16:1) suggests that up to that time the first month of the year
was the month which followed immediately upon the Autumnal Equinox.
This fixing of Abib or Nisan as the first month of the year may,
however, have been a return to the original mode of reckoning from
the Creation and a rejection of the Egyptian method of reckoning by
the Vague calendar year of exactly 365 days.
But it is not till we reach the fifth chapter of Genesis that we
meet with our first definite chronological datum, and here we find a
complete list of the ante-diluvian patriarchs. The list is as
follows. We adopt the term Anno Hominis rather than Anno
Mundi, for, as we have seen, the world was created "in the
beginning." This was ages before the creation of Adam, the true
starting point of every Chronology. Ussher's date, B.C. 4004, should
be removed from Gen. 1:1, and placed at Gen. 1:26, or Gen. 5:1.
The Ante-diluvian Patriarchs: From the Creation to the Flood.
Adam created (Gen. 5:1).
Age of Adam at birth of Seth (Gen. 5:3).
Add age of Seth at birth of Enos (Gen. 5:6).
Add age of Enos at birth of Cainan (Gen. 5:9).
Add age of Cainan at birth of Mahalaleel (Gen. 5:12).
Add age of Mahalaleel at birth of Jared (Gen. 5:15).
Add age of Jared at birth of Enoch (Gen. 5:18).
Add age of Enoch at birth of Methuselah (Gen. 5:21).
Add age of Methuselah at birth of Lamech (Gen. 5:25).
Add age of Lamech at birth of Noah (Gen. 5:28).
1056. Noah born.
Add age of Noah at the Flood (Gen. 7:6).
1656. The Flood.
The design of this genealogical list is to give a Chronology of
the period from Adam to the Flood. The line chosen is the line of
Noah the preserver of the race, the line of the promised Messiah the
Redeemer of the race. It must not be assumed that the son named in
each generation is either always or generally the eldest son of his
father. This is not stated, it is not suggested, it is not implied.
Certainly Seth is not the eldest son of Adam, nor is Shem the eldest
son of Noah, though he is mentioned in this list (Gen. 5:32) before
his eldest brother Japheth (Gen. 10:21). Moses selects from the
genealogical family records only those entries which relate to the
chosen people, and those other races who are brought into contact
with them in the course of their later history. The line of Noah,
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is selected because to them was given the
promise of the "Seed," in whom all the nations of the earth
are to be blessed. The theme of the Old Testament is the Redeemer.
All its selections are governed, and all its omissions are explained,
by this fact.
That the interest of the recorder of these Tables was
chronological, may be inferred from the careful attention which he
has paid to the subject of Chronology, and the very precise nature,
and chronological form of the statements made respecting the ages of
each of the Patriarchs. It may also be inferred from the fact that
though he gives the descendants of the line of Cain, he attaches no
Chronology to that line; his chronological purpose [PAGE 66] is
served if the succession of events is accurately and fully recorded
along the one line of succession which he adopts as his chronological
The number of the years of the life of each of the Patriarchs is
mentioned, in addition to the years before and after the birth of the
son named, probably in order to show by this double statement that
however extraordinary the length of the life of the Patriarch, there
is no mistake about the accuracy of the figures. There is no reason
to doubt the fact that our first fathers were endowed with a better
physical frame, which enabled them to live a longer life than the men
of the present day. The attempt to interpret the names of these men
as the eponymous names of tribes or dynasties, or to give the word
"year" a different signification from that which it
ordinarily bears, or to discount the narrative as mythical, and the
personages named in it as fictitious, is a fallacy induced by a
presumed, but false analogy between the Biblical narrative and the
legendary accounts of the origins of other nations, or by the
gratuitous assumption that as things are to-day, so they always have
been, and always will be. We have the same authority for believing
that Adam was 930 when he died, that we have for believing that
Joseph was 30 when he stood before Pharaoh, and 110 when he died.
The narrative nowhere states, and it must not be understood to
imply, that each succeeding Patriarch was born on the very day on
which his father attained the age named at his birth. As the purpose
of the list is chronological, it must be interpreted to mean that the
fractions of a year which are not mentioned are included in the age
of the father. Moses intended his calculations to be both accurate
and complete. He reckons by complete years, and gives the whole of
the year in which the son is born to the age of the father at his
son's birth. This is proved by the two instances of Methuselah and
Noah. Methuselah's age at death is stated to have been 969 years
(Gen. 5:27) but he was only 968 years, 1 month and 17 days old, plus
whatever fraction of the year of his birth was included in the 65th
year of his father Enoch, when the Flood began. Noah's age when the
Flood was upon the earth is given as 600 years (Gen. 7:6), but it was
only on the 17th day of the 2nd month of his 600th year that the
fountains of the deep were broken up (Gen. 7:11). These statements
are given by Moses in order to explain the technical principles on
which the Chronology is built. Those who make them into
"discrepancies" are self-convicted, (1) of an error of
interpretation, and (2) of attributing to the author the mistake
which has been made by themselves.
Moses' tables of the Patriarchs, like Ptolemy's Canon of Kings,
are constructed on astronomical principles. The numbers taken
collectively constitute an uninterrupted series of true, tropical
solar years, and register with astronomic accuracy the number of
solar revolutions from the creation of Adam to the death of Joseph,
which no Chronologer who accepts the statements of the Hebrew Text
can make either one year more, or one year less, than 2369. Adam
lived 930 years. The first year of his life runs parallel with the
year Anno Hominis 1. The year in which he died runs parallel with AN.
HOM. 930. Seth was born in the 130th year of Adam's life, the year
AN. HOM. 130. It is not suggested that the Patriarchs were all born
at the autumnal Equinox, or [PAGE 67] all on the same day of the same
month of the year. The years are integral, and take no account of
fractions. The year of Seth's birth is reckoned to Adam. The 131st
year of Adam's life, the year AN. HOM. 131, is reckoned as the 1st
year of the life of Seth. Hence, we may safely conclude that Moses'
reckoning of years is inclusive, and Noah is said to be 600 years old
at the beginning, and not at the end of his 600th year.
The numbers given in this genealogical list are characterized by
the strictest regard for accuracy and precision. This is confirmed by
the fact that since Ussher, no Chronologer who has adopted the
numbers given in the Hebrew Text as the basis of his calculation, has
ever failed to fix the Flood in the year AN. HOM. 1656, and the death
of Joseph in the year AN. HOM. 2369.
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